Monday, November 26, 2018

White Knuckled Horse Thief

[September 14-15]
The big blue sky extends beyond Colorado into Utah.  I knew that.  But now I know that. As we head for Canyonlands we're also scoping out potential campsites. As it turns out Horse Thief Campground  (BLM) is very close to the Island in the Sky east entrance - and handy for our later drive to the west entrance.

Moab is a first stop for groceries and water and all the fuel we'll need for the first section of the White Rim Road. You can imagine the white knuckle part if you know that we will drive from up here down a narrow squiggly road that leads to the long stretch below.  Steep drop-offs.  No safety rails.

We have all day to reach our assigned Airport campsite.  That means that we can take time to explore on the way there.  What i didn't know, but now know: There isn't really an airport inside Canyonlands.  There is a gigantic rock formation that looks a lot like an airport tower.  The funny guy to whom i'm married exploited my ignorance by hinting that our sleep could be interrupted by the noise of airplanes landing and taking off.  Wild back-country humor.

It is a slow drive down to the White Rim Road.  The info sheet from the ranger station tells us that we are seeing several geologic layers evident in a variety of rock formations.

The one-lane dirt road that you see here is also in the photo below.  

The top of the photo is the Island in the Sky - the top of the canyon.  The Colorado River flows through the bottom of the canyon.

See that last canyon edge?  We'll be driving down to spend the afternoon at the edge of the Colorado River...well we won't drive straight down.  There is a more gentle drop coming up. And we survive.

Borregos of Canyonlands

Can you spot the bighorn sheep in the photo?  We almost miss seeing them in their desert camo.

From the river's edge  we look up to see the top of Airport Tower.  It is the shadowy, blurry square-topped rock formation.  It doesn't look all that huge from here.

This seems so civilized.  A riparian picnic table. To cool off we walk just beyond the palo verde trees to swim in the river.  It is a surprise to see a group of kayakers along the opposite shore.  

We think they are part of a guided trip.  For kayakers and bicylists  in Canyonlands, there are guides and SAG drivers carrying everything for trips that last 3-5 days.

The angle of sunlight on the river tells us that it is time to get Quiggy to drive us back out of the lower canyon to our campsite at the Airport Tower.

The first few bends in the road foretell the adventure awaiting.  We move from long shadow to bright sun in the eyes.  "Can you see?"  
"No, can you?"

Fortunately we are in one of the long shadows when the bend in the road is also a steep turn up hill.  It is when we need to reverse to make the turn that we find ourselves on three wheels.  A few moves alternating wheels brings us around the bend before the next blinding splash of sunshine.  In reality, it isn't scary - just a confidence booster for Q's agility.
Airport Tower Campsite

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